Hey Shredder

7 questions for guitarists

Eli Jebidiah

Poor Man's Whiskey, Guitarmageddon, Huckle

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Eli Jebidiah by John Margaretten

Eli Jebidiah is a sneaky axe man. It’s tough to get a bead on his own style because he’s such a gifted chameleon, taking on the not inconsiderable challenge of inhabiting the styles of Prince, Jack White and Duane Allman in just in the past year, not to mention his original work in Poor Man’s Whiskey. Eli is a grand listener, filling in the spaces his fellow musicians leave open and accentuating the positive in their playing. Increasingly, he’s shown himself an emerging bandleader, taking over the reins of Bay Area six-string orgy Guitarmageddon and steering it into interesting new spaces [check it out for yourself this Thursday, February 24 at Slim’s in San Francisco at the inaugural Guitarmageddon Blues Ball. More info here]. What remains universal in all of Eli’s various incarnations – be it PMW, Guitarmageddon or his new solo effort Huckle – is the residing quality and sincerity of the music he makes. As baldly enjoyable as his output and performances often are, there’s serious respect for his craft and an attention to detail that emerges in the economy and zing of his guitar work. He’ll make you smile and then back it up with ample chops and imagination. What the hell else do you want from a shredder?

Favorite effects pedal? Why?
CAE Sound Jangletone. This pedal really brings out the voice of the instrument. Essentially, it is a line booster, but what I love about it is that it compensates for all the signal loss that one gets when they use pedals and long chords. My favorite tone is when the guitar is going straight into the amp. If I want distortion or bite, I turn up the guitar volume; if I want it clean, I turn the guitar down. I like it when it is that simple. When you add effects to your chain, the tone really changes. The Jangletone lets me run through a series of effects before I go into my amp, but it always sounds like I am going direct to the amp. It also has a 6 db gain knob, which is great for me because it allows me to compensate for the difference in how hot the pickups are in the guitar or instrument that I am playing. I run a lot of different acoustic instruments through my amp (6-string and 12-string acoustic guitars, Weissenborn, dobro, and banjo), and several hollow and solid body electric guitars. By adjusting the gain setting on Jangletone on the fly, I can keep an even volume on my amp all night regardless of the instrument I am playing. It is my Swiss army knife of signal and tone control.
Tastiest guitarist — i.e. not just soloing but also overall playing — currently working six-strings?
Derek Trucks. He does it all for me. His touch, phrasing, tone, and rhythm feel are unparalleled in my book. I feel like he plays each note with more heart and intention than anyone else I hear these days. I have always been a big fan of slide guitar because I love how vocal it is. I really admire how Derek has broken out of the sonic stereotypes of what slide guitar has been applied to in the past. He is forging the path of the new possibilities for our generation. Also, my first love was the blues, and it is still, to this day, the music I most readily identify with emotionally. I love how Derek maintains the honestly of his blues roots while navigating the melodic and rhythmic landscapes of indian, jazz, rock, funk and soul music.

I’m gonna throw in an honorable mention to Brad Paisley. I have been getting into chicken pickin’ lately, and this guy is incredible. I could spend 10 years just studying his rhythm playing. When he breaks into a lead guitar solo, it’s always a great balance of melody and six string sizzle. Plus, I really like the pedal steel vibe that chicken pickers like Paisley and Johnny Hiland are able to coax out of the 6 string guitar.

A guitar solo I never get tired of listening to is…
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band cover of Springsteen’s ‘Blinded By The Light’. Every time I hear it I still get the chills. I think Dave Flett is the guitarist on that tune. I love the sounds he gets, especially when he kicks on the wah wah. Also, that solo was my introduction to the concept that you don’t have to play everything ‘inside the box’. His solo is a great mix of tasty classic rock licks, soulful bends, and really inventive transitions between ideas. I hear something new every time I listen to it.
Preferred brand of axe? Why?
When it comes to acoustic guitars, I am a Taylor guy. They make the best road guitars I have ever used. You can pick any guitar off the line in the factory, and you know it will play and sound great. They also hold up well to travel/humidity/temperature fluctuations. In the rare scenario when they do get out of whack, they are a breeze to set up, due to the clever design of the removable neck and custom shims.

For electric guitars, I love ‘off brands’. These days I am really into the late 70s, early 80s era of MIJ guitars (made in Japan). Electra, Tokai, Orville, Yahama, and Ibanez (and many others) were making instruments back then that were built better than their Gibson and Fender counterparts, hence the term, ‘lawsuit’ guitars. Plus, they are affordable for people that live off a musician’s wage. It’s nice not having to pay a Gibson price tag for a 30 year old guitar of comparable quality. My latest crush is on my Ibanez Am50. It is a 1983 tobacco sunburst ES 335 copy that is the size of a Les Paul. I just found a Bigsby B7 to put on it as well. I love the 335s, but they always feel too big on me. This smaller sized Am50 is right up my alley, I love it!

AC/DC, The Beatles, Radiohead or The Byrds – which one gives you the biggest guitar boner? What makes them SO sweet?
AC/DC. I was raised in Canada, and until I moved to California I didn’t even know there was another band in the world other than AC/DC. Where I grew up when I was little, you listened to AC/DC at recess or at home and played air guitar while running around manically like Angus Young. To me, AC/DC represents everything that guitar rock stands for. It’s sweaty, loud, aggressive, unpredictable, thunderously heavy and unremorseful. Listening to the rhythm section of Malcom, Cliff, and Phil is like getting pummeled by five set waves in a row in big surf. Throw Bon Scott and Angus on top of that and it’s all over, You have to rock. There is no other option. For me, their music taps into a very primal place. It is the domain of instinct. I have a lot of musical appreciation and emotional connection to what George Harrison, Jonny Greenwood and Clarence White are doing on guitar, but their playing doesn’t hoist the ol’ purple veined yogurt thrower into a full salute like AC/DC does. I guess that is why they call it ‘Cock Rock.’
One lesser known guitarist folks should check out is…
Paul Hoaglin of the Mother Hips. I don’t think people know about his guitar playing because most of the time he is tied up playing bass with his hands and feet. I keep hearing these awesome guitar solos on CDs from different bands only to find out they’re all done by Paul. I think he has a guitar playing clone that no one is aware of that is silently amassing this huge catalog of guitar session work. He is also one of the tastiest slide players I have heard. I love his sense of tone, melody, rhythm, and the ability to write amazing harmony lines. He is the total guitar package, trapped in a bass player’s body.
What aspect of being a guitarist always makes you happy?
Resonance. When I play guitar, I feel the vibrations of my instrument go through my body. When that is in tune with how I am feeling, I am totally connected and open to everything and everyone around me. I think music affects people on an instinctual level, much deeper than language can. Like other art forms, it has a reactive nature and stirs up feelings inside of people. When those vibrations start mixing with other the vibrations in the room, something magical begins to happen. People and the surrounding environment start to resonate and pulse in this organic, rhythmic fashion. Before you know it, we are all vibrating with this communal energy. In those moments, it all becomes a very Zen experience. I don’t know who is leading or following. There is no thinking involved, just a vast canvas of openness, honesty, and acceptance of whatever comes out. I think those are the kind of moments we spend our lives searching for. It brings great joy to my heart to have found that through guitar, I can get to that place and share in that experience with others.